Victory in the Mexican War added a vast new territory to the United
States with much of it inhabited by savage Indians. To help cope with
his problem, the Second United States Cavalry was formed under the command
of Albert Sidney Johnston, on March 9, 1855. Since the primary mission
was to guard the Texas frontier against the marauding Comanche Indians,
Johnston issued orders to built a new fort between Fort Mason and Fort
Belknap. Colonel Johnston specified that this fort would be located
somewhere in the vicinity of where the Fort Belknap- Fort Mason road
crossed the Colorado River. Major Earl Van Dorn along with Captain Theodore
O`Hara and Companies A and F of the 2nd Cavalry were ordered
to find a good location and built the fort.
"Camp Colorado was established August 2nd,
1856, and is six miles North of the Colorado River of Texas on the road
leading from Fort Mason to Fort Belknap," according to the monthly
Post Returns. This locale which is about four miles from present day
Trickham, proved to be temporary. Several of the soldiers, unaccustomed
to the climate, contracted malaria, so in 1857, the camp was moved to
a place twenty miles north of the Jim Ned Creek.
Major Van Dorn leased 1,506 acres of land along the
Jim Ned Creek and began building the fort. The complex consisted of
officers quarters, officers kitchens, pickett house, set of company
quarters, hospital building, store house, stable and the headquarters
building occupied in May of 1859. Building was slow due to shortages
of material, men, intensity of Indian raids, time consuming jobs of
hauling supplies from San Antonio, and changes in command of the camp.
From 1858 to 1859, no less than seven commanders, including Van Dorn¢s
and Hood¢ s second hitch, trooped to
camp Camp Colorado. Those who were assigned as commanders were Lt. J.
H. Holman, Lt. J. B. Hood, Lt. J. H. McArthur, Cpt. Charles J. Whiting,
and Edward K. Smith, the last of the Federal Commanders who arrived
December of 1859.
An expedition went out under the command of E. Kirby
Smith. They finally succeeded in overtaking the Indians far up on the
Texas Plains. During the height of the battle two Indians ran out in
front of the ranks, threw up their hands and shouted, "Me Squaw!"
General Smith, knowing little about Indian wiles, ordered his men to
stop firing, saying, "Don¢t shoot
those squaws!" The soldiers immediately stopped, but the Indians
kept right on going, feeling Smith with several arrows, two of which
had to be left in his body until they could take him back to the post
hospital. In the confusion, the Indians escaped, while the chagrined
soldiers prepared to take their wounded leader back to camp. ( Gay,
Because of the isolation of the camp and the rigorous
discipline of Van Dorn, many men deserted the army. For those soldiers
who remained, drinking, gambling and horseracing provided entertainment.
Minute Men & Confederate Control: 1861 to 1865
With the secession of Texas from the Union, February 1, 1861, Camp Colorado
was relinquished by Captain Smith to Colonel H. E. McCulloch, ending
the Federal Control and the Camp fell into the hands of the Southern
Confederacy. After the departure of Federal Troops, several men commanded
the States forces, namely Captain William Pitts, Captain Holmsley, James
M. Norris, and Captain Frank M. Collier. Captain J. J. Callan relieved
Collier shortly afterwards with his "Minute Men" Company which
had been organized in Coleman County on July 27, 1861. All of the men
were from Coleman County.
In January, 1865, one of the most outstanding Indian
encounters took place near Dove Creek in the southwestern part of present
day Tom Green County. A tribe of some 2,000 Kickapoo Indians were engaged
in battle by approximately 600 Rangers, Confederates and Minute Men.
Needless to say, the soldiers were defeated with twenty-six killed and
about sixty wounded.
In 1863, Colonel James M. Norris resigned as commander
of the Texas Mounted Regiment and Colonel J.E. McCord assumed command
until 1864 when his regiment was transferred to the Confederacy. McCord
was faced with the problems of supply, desertions and draft dodgers,
not to mention the persistent Indian problems. Following McCord, Henry
Fosset and Captain George Cook came to Camp Colorado where they remained
until the close of the Civil War.
With low morale caused by lack of pay, no satisfying
means of communication with their families, a sense of defeatism engendered
in them by Confederate losses and Union successes, the defeat at Dove
Creek and lack of supplies, the men began to desert in ever-increasing
numbers. Finally in the spring of 1865, it was evident the South had
lost the war and by order of J.B. Barry, the command was disbanded.
So closes the era of Camp Colorado as a military post.
Even though the Civil War was over and the soldiers had left, there
still remained a need for protection of the settlers from Indian attacks
and cattle rustlers. The settlers began to band together and consequently
organized Coleman County in 1867 with a meeting of Commissioners Court
which included J.S. Gossett, D.T. Key, W.T. Moss, and E.Y. Brown. Judge
Malcom Hunter presided, L.D. Greaves was the county clerk and W.E. Costley
was the sheriff.
Lt. John Elkins organized a company of Minute Men which
was finally recognized by the Texas Legislature in 1874, allowing the
members to be paid for past services. The Minute Men played an important
role in the defense of Camp Colorado as did Captain Jeff Maltbv’s Company
E of the Texas Rangers. One of Maltby`s men, Henry Sackett, later acquired
the land upon which the camp was built.
An interesting story involving Maltby’s Rangers and
the Kiowan Indian Chief Big Foot is told by Captain Maltby:
"Corporal Sackett, you stay with me, I will
take Big Foot and you take his lieutenant, and then we will capture
the squaw. Lieutenant, (Best) you take all the other men and take everything
at the fire and north of the fire, and when we start, don’t hollow,
let’s get right out; then before they know it, and now go, and the charge
was sudden and desperate in strict keeping with the Texas Rangers. At
the sound of the horses feet Big Foot and his lieutenant sprang to their
horses, but before Big Foot could mount, Captain Jeff’s six shooter
spoke its voice of death and Big Foot’s Horse fell dead. Big Foot then
turned and aimed his Spencer rifle, but before he could pull the trigger,
Captain Jeff’s pistol spoke again and its leaden messenger of death
went to the mark knocking the hammer off of the Indian’s gun and driving
it into his cheek, then glanced down striking him in the jugular vein
and breaking his neck. The blood spurted high and Big Foot fell to rise
no more, his career of crime ended."
The last of the Indian Battles had ended by 1874 and
the main purpose of Camp Colorado had been accomplished. With the coming
of the railheads in Kansas and the Western Trail ten miles west of Camp
Colorado, Coleman was designated the county seat and so Camp Colorado
was doomed. Today the original buildings are gone except for the original
guard house on the back of the Sackett ranch house and store. Foundations
of the buildings on the Jim Ned are visible. The Camp Colorado Cemetery
lies a quarter of a mile east of the home and is the resting place for
many those founders. A replica of the administration building is in
the Coleman City Park.
Muster Roll for Captain J.J. Callan’s Company of "Minute
Men": James J. Callan, Captain, Age 27; Frank W. Wilbourne, First
Lieutenant, Age 25; Elisha Childress, Second Lieutenant, 25; Dudley
Johnson First Sergeant, 18; Samuel Bailey, Sergeant, 32; Elbert Watts,
Sergeant, 31; R.C. Morgan, Captain, 29; William Cox, Captain, 22; James
F. Galkerson, Captain, 27; Isaac Blackwell, Private, 22; Elisha Briggs,
Private, 21; Aaron Burke, Pvt., 22; H.M. Childress, Pvt., 27; William
Edmundson, Pvt., 27; Thornton Govesyth, Pvt., 39; Henry Griffin, Pvt.,
24; A. Hinesley, Pvt., 35; Malcom Hunter, Pvt., 22; Jesse Johnson, Pvt.,
21; James Lindsey, Pvt., 26; B.J. Marshall, Pvt., 31; Jno. Mullins,
Pvt., 31; William Mullins, Pvt., 29; W. R. Middleton, Pvt., 39; H. Nix,
Pvt., 20; J.R. Rushing, Pvt., 30; Will Robinson, Pvt., 24; John Sheen,
Pvt., 43; Thomas P. Shyne, Pvt., 25; W.P.B. Wilbourn, Pvt., 27; W.A.
Williams, Pvt., 19; A.L. Watts.,Pvt., 45.
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